ALL victories in Europe are worth celebrating, but this one over Cluj was especially sweet for Celtic and their supporters. 

They exacted revenge for the ignominious 4-3 defeat they suffered at Parkhead in August that sent them tumbling out of the Champions League in the third qualifying round for the second season running with an assured all-round display. 

An Odsonne Edouard header in the first-half and a deflected strike by Mohamed Elyounoussi in the second saw them triumph comfortably and underlined how much they have progressed in the opening three months of the 2019/20 campaign. 

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The win moved them into first place in Group E by a point and increased their chances of reaching the Europa League knockout rounds. Getting into such a position looked highly unlikely the last time they squared up to their rivals.  

The Scottish champions had produced an error-strewn performance at the back and failed to convert their chances up front when they faced their Romanian counterparts previously. But on this occasion they were superior in every department and richly deserved their triumph. 

Neil Lennon made two changes to the team which had failed to overcome Hibernian at Easter Road in the Ladbrokes Premiership on Saturday. Moritz Bauer was replaced at right back by Hatem Elhamed and Olivier Ntcham made way for Elyounoussi. His team looked far more like their old selves as a result and quickly assumed control of proceedings. 

They went agonisingly close to scoring with a well-worked short corner that looked like it had been rehearsed on the training ground at Lennoxtown in the 11th minute. Ryan Christie fed James Forrest who in turn laid the ball off to Callum McGregor. 

The midfielder picked out Christopher Jullien with a dipping delivery into the opposition area and the centre half’s powerful downward header was only denied by a brilliant reaction save by Giedrius Arlauskis. 

Celtic had an opportunity to take the lead moments later with an identical manoeuvre. This time, though, it was Boli Bolingoli who supplied Jullien. The French defender rose well to meet the cross, but his attempt sailed well over the crossbar. 

Deploying McGregor out of position at left back had proved catastrophic for Celtic against Cluj  before. His return to his favoured central midfielder berth in the rematch and the selection of Bolingoli, the player who whose place he took on that fateful evening, proved instrumental in the win. 

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McGregor set up the opening goal in the 20th minute when he threaded a defence-splitting through ball to the advancing Bolingoli. His team mate chipped over the heads of Andrei Burca and Kevin Boli and Edouard bulleted a header into the net. 
Constant rain made the playing conditions treacherous, but Celtic’s passing was slick and they threatened to score whenever they broke forward. The visitors struggled to deal with the physicality and industry of Scott Brown in the middle of the park. Edouard had a shot blocked by Burca and Bolingoli both forced a save from Arlauskis and went close with a long-range attempt. 

Bolingoli, a £3.5 million summer signing from Rapid Vienna, had struggled so badly in Cluj that he was left on the bench for the return leg. He has overcome his shaky start and then some. He was once again excellent, both offensively and defensively, last night.  

The Cluj players celebrated an equaliser five minutes after they had fallen behind only for assistant referee Stefan Lupp to raise his flag. He correctly ruled that Boli had been in an offside position when Mario Rondon pounced and squared across goal after Fraser Forster had saved the initial effort from Luis Aurelio. 

But it was a rare nervous moment for Celtic in a first-half they dominated. When Rondon was booked by match official Daniel Siebert just before half-time for a blatant dive it smacked distinctly of desperation.  

Dan Petrescu, the Chelsea great and Cluj manager, had missed the pre-match press conference on Wednesday evening due to being unwell. He hauled himself out of his bed to take his place in the technical area. But what he witnessed from his charges must have left him feeling queasy. 

Matters didn’t improve for the away team in the second-half. Just four minutes after the restart Christie, who was his usual hive of industry just off lone striker Edouard, stole possession off Mihai Bordeianu and sent Forrest racing towards goal. The winger shrugged off the attentions of Camora and burrowed his way into Cluj box, but fired just wide of the left post. 

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Elyounoussi, the Norwegian internationalist who is on loan from Southampton for the season, started the move which led to the second goal and then finished it off. He gave the ball to Forrest and then received it back again before unleashing a shot that struck Burca and spun beyond the helpless Arlauskis. It was his first goal for Celtic and he savoured the moment. 

Cluj had nothing to lose by committing more men forward by that stage and trying to grab a lifeline. But their hosts dealt comfortably with everything they threw at them. Ciprian Deac tested Fraser Forster from acute angle. However, the goalkeeper palmed it clear. The Englishman and his defenders deserved their clean sheet.

Celtic could have scored more. Edouard, who took his tally for this term to nine with his goal, had opportunities. But it was hard to be critical. Jonny Hayes came on for Forrest and Ntcham took over from Christie. The replacements saw out a fine win.